Valentine's Day has always meant more to longtime Madisonville resident James T. Mooney, who also happens to celebrate his birthday on Feb. 14.
This year, however, the holiday holds even more significance for Mooney, who turns 100 today.
Mooney was born in New Orleans in 1918. This was just the first of many stops before he found his way to Madisonville and Helen, the love of his life.
Jim and his family moved around quite a bit during his early years. They spent time in Mobile, Ala., Utica, N.Y. and Waxahatchie before they settled in Houston.
Mooney and his older brother Vincent worked odd jobs while attending school to help support their mother and sister Ann after they lost their father. He would then graduate Reagan Senior High School in Houston.
In 1942, Mooney enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was on the Tinian Island in the Pacific when the Enola Gay departed for Hiroshima. Sgt. Mooney was receiving flight training at Keesler Field in Mississippi when World War II ended and was honorably discharged.
He then returned to Houston and met his future wife, Helen Alfred. Helen, who was born in Madisonville, is the daughter of J.B. and Vera Alfred. The family goes back several generations in the area.
"It seems like Jim and Helen have never really been apart from each other," said daughter-in-law Kathy Mooney. "They've always loved each other to death and both just want to make each other happy. It's really incredible how long they've been together."
Helen worked as a school teacher in Madisonville and Jim worked in the telecommunications business for more than 45 years. He then worked another 20 years at the Walmart in Madisonville until he was 95 years old.
Jim and Helen have two sons, Dave and Gary, who are married to Sandra and Kathy, respectively. They have three grandsons, Jess, Will and Austin, who are married to Jessica, Bailey and Katie. They also have four great-grandsons, Hayes, Kenton, Cullen and Sam, along with great granddaughter Savannah.
Jim and Helen Mooney are preparing to celebrate their 71st wedding anniversary in June.
"It shows that despite all the things that come and go in your life, it's worth staying with the person that you love because the reward is so great," said Kathy Mooney. "Nowadays people can take a lot of it for granted. It's encouraging to see that consistency and that commitment."
Jim Mooney will spend another Valentine's Day and his 100th birthday with the love of his life as well as the rest of his family that has grown so much through the years. He still enjoys singing and put smiles on the faces of his loved ones.
"Jim's taking birthdays one at a time these days and expects to have a few more," said Dave Mooney. "He still likes to tell the occasional joke now and then."